October 6, 2007

Real estate is much more pricey in Seattle than in Pittsburgh, but a bargain hunter can always find a good buy. Seattle Bubble, a great counterpoint to the relentless optimism of commission-starved Realtors, found a gem of a property: 57 acres, massive square footage, and a unique structure from the mid-20th century.

It's a decommissioned Titan missile base. You can buy it on eBay!

I really love unique homes despite their near-total lack of marketability. No one should ever buy a home because they want to live there, I'm told; one should only buy a home for the next person who lives there. After seeing endless "very unique condos" on the market, I would much rather have a truly unique home like LA's famous Chemosphere than a unit in a building made to look cloyingly retro.

But back to the topic at hand: silo living. It is possible to make a below-ground missile silo into a livable space. Consider Silohome, a former missile silo in the Adirondacks that is now a home in an air park. The owners bought the site, constructed a 2000-square-foot home on the surface, converted the Launch Control Center (LCC) into a 2300-square-foot luxury home, and preserved access to at least the upper part of the "LLC" (whatever that is) where the missile once stood. The square footage numbers seem impressive though I'm sure the angles and shapes make decorating very difficult. One web site from 2001 claims that the home's owners are "asking $2.3 million."

Paying a million and a half for a missile base in Central Washington would only be the beginning. The site has electricity and water, but gas was trucked in -- why entrust such a dangerous substance to a municipal utility? The owner is an eccentric gentleman named Bari Hotchkiss who bought the site around 1999 and previously offered it for about $4 million. Hotchkiss told KOMO-TV of Seattle that his site "is sort of like the Washington monument or the pyramids of Egypt." According to a pseudonymous comment on BoingBoing, Hotchkiss is "convinced that with the right investment someone could put a multi-story destination resort on it. Pretty hilarious considering it's in the middle of nowhere in central WA." The nearest tourist attraction, Moses Lake, is about 40 minutes west on I-90 and the nearest metropolitan area is the Tri-Cities, more than an hour south. But who wouldn't want an address that, according to Yahoo! Maps, is "Titan Missile Silo, Batum, WA"?

The next time we have a sunny day in Seattle, which won't be until March, I'll remember Hotchkiss's pie-in-the-sky description of what one could do with a house in a silo:

if you chose to live in one or both of the Antenna Silos, you could retrofit the ANTENNA SILO - SILO DOORS - each weighing about 50 tons - with a new hydraulic opening system and then you could have your own push button 100-ton opening skylight. And if you really wanted to go whole hog, you could live in the bottom of one of the 155’ tall MISSILE SILOS and retrofit the 150 ton SILO DOORS so you could push a button and open them up – 155’ above the floor!!